Just when many Christians felt it was honorable (and tasty to boot) to promote fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, which has always espoused Judeo-Christian values, comes revelations the company’s foundation is in the process of reassessing its philanthropic partnerships – including faith-based ministries.
What is alarming is what drove the Atlanta-based fast-food chain to make the decision.
Included in the organizations the company will cease to support are The Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which just happen to be ministries LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) activists have expressed concerns about, fearing they are “anti-LGBTQ.”
David Almasi of the National Center for Public Policy Research, spoke for many believers when he stated:
“That was a gut punch when Chick-fil-A decided to compromise on its values. It’s something that’s going to hurt the chain more than it’s going to help it, despite what they say.”
I have to admit that I have been concerned when reading the news over the past few years citing Chick-Fil-A being kicked out of malls and banned from college campuses.
Innocently, I chalked it up to the cost of doing business for a company driven by Christian values in the 21st century.
And honestly, actions taken by activists didn’t seem to harm the company’s bottom line, which fast-food industry analysts announced in April of this year is set to become the third-largest restaurant in the U.S. trailing behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks.
As recently as 2017, Chick-fil-A was ranked seventh behind McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Dunkin’ Donuts.
So to say the growth of the company has been explosive is an understatement.
That’s why Chick-fil-A’s decision to cave on its values – values that have played no small part in attracting customers to their restaurants – is so disconcerting.
Evangelist Franklin Graham, who personally frequents the restaurant, said in a Facebook post that he spoke to Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, son of founder Truett Cathy, who assured him the company is not caving on its values.
Franklin said Cathy told him, “They will continue to support whoever they want to support. They haven’t changed who they are or what they believe. Chick-fil-A remains committed to Christian values.”
But Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos seems to be sending a different message.
In announcing the company will now focus on three initiatives with one accompanying charity each: education, homelessness and hunger, Tassopoulos told bisnow.com, “There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” he said. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”
It is interesting that the move in allocation of their support of charities comes at a time when Chick-fil-A is making a more aggressive push to expand globally and into more liberal U.S. markets that have publicly rejected them based on their biblically-based values in the past.
It is, indeed, a complicated issue.
In response to Chick-fil-A’s announcement, The Salvation Army said in a statement to bisnow.com, “We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations. We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”
Chick-fil-A has intentionally built its brand around a foundation of traditional values – more specifically Judeo-Christian values. From their emphasis on service (treating their customers how they would like to be treated) to being closed on Sundays, the company’s identity has long been faith-based one.
Often referred to – albeit tongue-in-cheek – as “Christian chicken,” Chick-fil-A is known by many Christians, especially evangelicals, as a company that shares their basic worldview – to the extent that their support of the restaurant is not simply based on the quality of its chicken sandwiches but on its publicly-espoused values and commitments.
One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of apostasy is, “abandonment of a previous loyalty.” This perfectly defines Chick-fil-A’s recent capitulation to the culture war taking place in America – and the West in general.
British theologian John Stott once said, “The essence of apostasy is changing sides from that of the crucified to that of the crucifier.” American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, said it more plainly in his 1979 song, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
While Chick-fil-A’s leadership claim that nothing has changed and that their commitment to Christian values remains as strong as ever – actions speak louder than words.
Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.
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